Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jezebel Ruined My Childhood

Today while scrolling through my Facebook I came across an article about back to school items that 90s kids loved and spent a happy 10 minutes reveling in memories of Trapper Keepers, gel pens, erasable pens and Lisa Frank. One of my biggest memories from childhood was hunting the aisles with my mom for the erasable pens to send to family overseas. We had an elderly relative who loved crossword puzzles and was losing her eyesight, erasable pens made it possible for her to see her puzzle and still fix her mistakes. They weren't available outside of the U.S. so we had to ship them to her.

For me the best part of back to school was the school supplies! My mom was very frugal and didn't believe in anything unnecessary, but her one weakness was office supplies (still is). It was the one time of the year I was guaranteed to leave the store with something awesome. Now as a teacher I'm still a school supply junkie-no boring pens for me! I stock up on fun colored pens, pencil pouches with cool quotes and ridiculous folders. My husband says my design aesthetic is that of a 12 year old girl (I highly favor cartoon prints, pink and green, and animals). As a teacher I'm famous for wearing stupid socks (think socks with jellyfish or unicorns on them) almost daily and I proudly own a dress printed with rubber ducks (one of many novelty print dresses). I like color and I like quirkiness and I finally have the self confidence to wear all the things I couldn't in middle school (and I've moved on from an unfortunate phase of only wearing black and vintage band t-shirts. It looked wonderful with my blonde hair and pasty skin). 

Even as a kid I loved Lisa Frank and I usually had one of her folders at the very minimum, but usually I had more. I had tons of her stickers and I can assure you none of them were ever used. I hated using my stickers so I kept them all pristine and stored them in a box. I would just take them out and look at them. Why yes I was a strange kid. I still remember my gifted teacher in 3rd grade bought me a little Lisa Frank notebook with unicorns on it to keep my book ideas in. I still have it and I still use it. Every year I look for Lisa Frank folders in the school supply aisle and I never find them. 

After I reveled in my 90s memories for awhile I saw the recommended article and my heart sank. A piece by Jezebel called "Inside the Rainbow Gulag: The Technicolor Rise and Fall of Lisa Frank" with a cute picture of a unicorn being smashed under a rainbow. I clicked the article with trepidation and read through stories of drug abuse by the founders, abuse of employees and financial woes. With each line of the story my mood darkened just a little bit more-to me Lisa Frank meant hope, cheer and optimism. Hope that this was the year I was going to finally fit in (spoiler alert: I never did), a cheerful reminder on the worst days of middle school drama and optimism that the adult world would treat me much more kindly than the kid world ever did (and it does for the most part). Lisa Frank meant that heady time of the beginning of a new school year-part of a time in my life where you felt so different after 3 months off and where you could be anyone at the start of a new year. As a kid you measure your life around the school year and shopping for school supplies meant I was a year older, a year closer to being who I wanted to be, a year closer to the adulthood I so desperately craved. In my misguided youthfulness I thought the right Lisa Frank folder or sticker would let me fit in and finally be the ticket to my acceptance. I loved the start of school so much I became a teacher so I could hang onto that feeling of optimism and change. 

I would make up stories about the character on my folders-each of them had a name and a backstory. These were my first attempts at writing and shaped me as the writer I am today. I still remember some of the stories I made up about the unicorns and dolphins that danced across my math folder. 

Reading the article I was appalled by the allegations and saddened by the downturn for the company. It seems I had finally found the reason why I couldn't find any Lisa Frank products stocking the back to school shelves. The article was beautifully written and well researched, but it hurt. It hurt because in my mind I was still that kid who thought the adult world was my ticket out. In my 12 year old mind the adult world was a Lisa Frank world-she was an adult who lived her life being creative and surrounded by cheerfulness. I thought when I grew up my life would still involve rainbows and unicorns and I would be free to be who I wanted to be and people would love me for it. The article exposed the truth-a truth I know but I desperately tried to avoid. The adult world isn't pretty, it's sometimes hard and people are still just as mean as they were in high school if not meaner. Life gets more complex every single year and money and material things still don't make people happy. 

I still haven't found acceptance and I'm still an outsider in most social situations, but I have found an amazing husband who loves me for every single part of my craziness and I have found a small group of friends who love the same things I do. I no longer feel the need to have everyone like me or feel hurt when people don't accept me. 
I have the self confidence to laugh off the mean actions of others. When a co-worker accidentally sent me an email making fun of my outfit instead of sending it to her friend I laughed. I was hurt for sure, but I was able to laugh it off and still love myself.
I have the self confidence to be who I want to be. I'm no longer trying to fit it, but rather I'm trying to stand out. 
I have a life that makes me happy and let's me be creative on my own terms.

I no longer believe the adult world is all rainbows and sunshine because I've seen both the good and the bad. Now I can see that Lisa Frank's life wasn't ever easy and that the hard times were always there. However, she kept looking for the unicorns and the joy in life even as her world was falling apart. Am I sad that my childhood was tarnished? No, because I know now that no one is perfect. I still admire her for influencing an entire generation and for providing me with hope during a dark time in my life. I still love her designs and I still hope for the best for her company and for her personally. I've also discovered that Amazon stocks her products so I'll be shopping up a storm and relishing in my adulthood freedom to like what I like! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Kroger Coupon Scam

Recently an awesome coupon deal has been floating around Facebook offering $200.00 off your purchase of $220.00 at Kroger. A peek at the Kroger corporate page shows tons of posts from people asking if it is real or not. My newsfeed is full of people sharing the coupon, a lot of times with the message "this probably isn't real, but it can't hurt to try".

In all actuality it can hurt to try. Many times these scams require you to complete certain tasks to earn the coupon (or iPad, shoes whatever). You may not notice that you're signing up for expensive monthly offers. A lot of times they ask you to give your credit card number and people are so entranced by the idea that they will get something for free that they give it. These scammers use the names of established businesses to earn your trust. I would probably feel comfortable giving Kroger my credit card number (since I use my card there every week), but not to some random guy on the Internet. Once the scammers have your credit card information who knows what they can do with it. A friend of mine fell for one of these "deals" and gave them her credit card information. Her next bill was filled with charges for various services. She attempted to dispute them with her credit card company, but since she herself had signed up for them (Since she didn't read the fine print she didn't know what she was signing up for, but ignorance is not excuse). She spent months trying to cancel all these subscriptions and as expected her "free" item never arrived.

Sometimes the scam seems innocuous. I told someone on the Kroger page that it was fake and they replied that all they had to do was like a page and share with friends and that the page didn't ask for their credit card number. Often times these scams are used to collect a massive amount of likes for a page which is then sold and rebranded. You don't know who is buying the page or what your name will be associated with. In addition often times these links can contain viruses or malware that can infect your computer or harvest data from your computer. You can be exposing your passwords, financial information or anything else you keep on your device to these people. When I think about the sheer amount of data on my computer or device it terrifies me to think about someone having unrestricted access to it. 

You are required to share the page with your friends or with groups in order to spread the scam far and wide. This brings the scammers plenty of new victims and tons of people seem to fall for it. 

So the big question is how do you avoid these scams? It takes some common sense and some internet savvy. Common sense seems to go out the window with the promise of something for nothing. It's an enticing offer, but take a minute to step back and think.

 First things first take a look at the link. You can see the link underneath the words Get your $200.00 Kroger coupon now! This scam has a variety of different links attached to it. If it doesn't sound like a link to the legitimate page then it is a scam. You can see how long and complicated the link is in the first post. Somehow Amazon pops up in the link even though they have nothing to do with Kroger. That is a red flag right there!

Next check out the official corporate page on Facebook. Search for the business name in your search bar and find their page. When businesses run a promotion they will usually promote it-they want to promote their business. As you may see Kroger has posted nothing about offering a coupon. If they were offering it they would want people to participate.
Next do a Google search for whatever is being offered and the word scam. You can see I found tons of articles about different variations of this scam and other blog posts. Snopes is a reliable source for this information and you should always check with them before sharing something on Facebook. A Google search takes less than a minute of your time and can save you and your friends the heartache of being scammed. 
Last but not least think about it! This is what the page asks you do to to earn your coupon (I didn't click on the link, I found this on the Kroger Facebook page. Someone had posted this asking if it was real). For these 3 simple steps Kroger is going to give me $200.00. Think about the number of times you have seen this coupon shared, plus the number of people you would be sharing it with. If the coupon was legitimate can you imagine the amount of money they would be giving away? Does that sound feasible? Think about other giveaways you have seen-I have seen drawings for a gift card in a large amount, but how many people win those? One or two at most. Think about the usual coupons you see-usually they are worth a dollar or less right? How does a $200.00 coupon make sense? 
I've seen the same scam run with Ugg boots and Playstations. Once again think about the expense-companies like to market their products, but they can't give away millions of dollars for something as simple as sharing a picture or liking a page. 

You may not think it does any harm, but it does. It clogs up Facebook with this drivel, annoys your friends, puts your personal information at risk and makes you look stupid for falling for it. It seems so easy and innocuous to click share and hope, but a responsible person does their research! Protect yourself! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer Fun comes to an end!

Wow it has been a long time since I've written! I had the best of intentions of keeping up with this blog, but life got in the way. I spend most of the summer traveling (I was only home for 3 weeks) and I preferred to live life rather than document it. I have tons of posts planned-trip recaps from Italy and Amsterdam, the new donut shop in town, new lesson ideas, a few fashion posts! 

I head back to work full time on Tuesday. However, I've spent the last few days working on my classroom. On the last day of school I had to board a plane at 4:30 to leave for vacation and I had to move to a new classroom that day as well. Needless to say I didn't do a very good job moving and all my stuff was just piled haphazardly in the middle of my new room. It has taken 3 full 8 hour days to get some semblance of order. Now that I'm finally set up (at least mostly) and now that I have lessons planned for the first few weeks I'm feeling better.

Like most teachers I'm dealing with the end of summer blues. I truly am excited for the year to start, but it's depressing to have summer come to an end. I think all teachers deal with the struggle of transitioning back into a school schedule and routine. During the summer we get used to having our freedom, doing what we want when we want and having no obligations or set schedule. It's just like coming back from a vacation, expect the vacation is much longer. I've figured out a few tips to make the transition easier.

1. Plan! Make a set schedule and a strict plan for those first few weeks of school as soon into summer as you possibly can! It takes so much pressure off and makes the transition easier when you aren't worrying about planning.
2. Keep responsibilities light for the first few weeks: teaching requires you to go go go all day long and we can't really change that. Those first few weeks I just plan on being exhausted after work and I try to not plan much for after school. I try to plan easy dinners, schedule time for relaxing and try to slow down a little bit.
3. Get on a regular sleep schedule: I always get off my schedule during the summer. I stay up late and sleep in. This summer has been worse since I spent most of it traveling internationally and my body was so messed up. I've been trying to go to bed a little earlier each night and wake up a little earlier each morning. Start getting back on schedule 2 weeks or so before school starts and that first week won't be such a crash.
4. Start planning for next summer: I keep a running list throughout the school year of things I want to accomplish over the summer. The list encompasses everything from chores and house projects to vacations and creative things! It helps me to remember that there will always be another summer!
5. Plan a short vacation: Luckily I go back in mid-August so we are only in school for a couple of weeks before its Labor Day. Even though it's only a 3 day weekend I use the time to take a short trip (even just to see my parents) or head out to the lake! Luckily the weather is usually nice enough to enjoy the outdoors and you can enjoy that last gasp of summer! It gives me something to look forward to during the first few weeks and it's a nice break!
6. Remember how lucky you are! Most adults don't get such a long break, enjoy it! Remember you have one of the best jobs in the world and back to school means a new year, new kids, new lessons and more chances to change the world! 

As I get back on a schedule I'll be posting more, once I get back into a routine and meet my new classes. I hope all of you had a wonderful summer and a relaxing break (however long you got)!